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‘I want to really remember what happened’

Mayor, officials honor World AIDS Day, promise continued fight

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World AIDS Day, Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade, Whitman-Walker Health
World AIDS Day, Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade, Whitman-Walker Health

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and three members of the City Council participated in a candlelight vigil to honor World AIDS Day on Sunday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

About 75 people, including D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and three members of the City Council, raised candles outside a former Whitman-Walker Clinic building at 14th and S streets, N.W., on Sunday night as part of the city’s 26th Annual World AIDS Day commemoration.

“This day has been a day to remember all those who have been affected by the epidemic and to rededicate ourselves not only to continue the fight against HIV but actually finding a cure,” said Whitman-Walker Health Executive Director Don Blanchon, who served as host of the event.

“On this World AIDS Day we have great hope and optimism that we may see the end of this epidemic in the not too distant future,” Blanchon said. “In this year we have seen tremendous advances in the fight. We’ve seen dramatic improved statistics on HIV/AIDS in our city.”

Gray, who pointed to a significant drop in the HIV infection rate in D.C. over the past several years, said he too is optimistic that a cure for AIDS could come sooner rather than later.

“It’s hard to believe that it wasn’t many years ago that we talked about AIDS being a death sentence,” Gray said. “It is not a death sentence anymore. With the advancement of pharmacology, even those who have full-blown AIDS can live a rich life. As long as the people take their medicine and stay on their regimen they can live a full and rich life,” he said.

Blanchon said Whitman-Walker chose to hold this year’s World AIDS Day vigil at the 14th and S Street site because the building at 1407 S St., N.W., was the home of the then Whitman-Walker Clinic during the peak of the AIDS epidemic during the 1980s and early 1990s.

He noted that Whitman-Walker Clinic, which has since been renamed Whitman-Walker Health, moved most of its patient care programs out of the 1407 S St. building in 1993, when it opened its Elizabeth Taylor Building one block away at 14th and U streets, N.W. Whitman-Walker continued to operate other programs in the S Street building until 2007, according to Whitman-Walker spokesperson Chip Lewis.

The JBC Companies real estate development firm, which purchased the 1407 S St. building along with adjacent properties, last month, installed a sculptured vertical column called the Pillar of Fire on the sidewalk outside the building. A plaque at the base of the sculpture says it’s dedicated to the “Whitman-Walker Clinic and the many health care workers who served the LGBT community in this building from 1987 to 2008, the early years of the pandemic.”

D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who served as executive director of Whitman-Walker during its years at the 1407 S St. building, called on those attending the World AIDS Day gathering to remember the dedicated people who worked on AIDS-related causes in the early years of the epidemic.

“Like everybody else who is here, I want to remember. I don’t want to forget. I want to really remember what happened,” Graham said. “And when I was committing to think of the people that I wanted to mention, there became too many names. People who ought to have been with us today are not.”

Among the names Graham mentioned were Gene Frey, a Whitman-Walker official who died in the mid-1980s of AIDS and for whom Whitman-Walker’s Gene Frey Award has been named. Others named were longtime Whitman-Walker supporters and local AIDS advocates Hank Card and Dusty Cunningham, both of whom also died of AIDS.

Others attending the vigil were D.C. Council members David Grosso (I-At-Large) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6). Also attending the event was Dr. Joxel Garcia, director of the D.C. Department of Health; and Michael Kharfen, acting director of the DOH’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Administration (HAHSTA).

Rev. Courtenay Miller, pastor of Norbeck Community Church of Silver Spring, Md.; and Rabbi Laurie Green of Bet Mishpachah, the D.C.-based synagogue that caters to the LGBT community, led prayers at the vigil.

Blanchon praised Graham for taking the lead in guiding Whitman-Walker through some of the most difficult times when not many other clinics and health facilities were focusing on AIDS

“In this building a small group of dedicated men and women provided care and compassion when many others would not in our community,” Blanchon told the gathering. “In the epidemic’s darkest hours these individuals gave without question what is the best of humanity – compassion, respect and love in one’s hour of needed.”

He added, “So many of those individuals are no longer with us and yet they live on in our hearts and minds. They were our partners, our family members, our friends, and our work colleagues. And today they are the light and hope that we carry forward in the quest to find a cure for AIDS.”

World AIDS Day, gay news, Washington Blade, Whitman-Walker Health

The 2013 D.C. World AIDS Day vigil drew about 75 participants. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

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District of Columbia

Bernie Delia, attorney, beloved Capital Pride organizer, dies at 68

Activist worked at Justice Department, White House as attorney

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Bernie Delia (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Bernie Delia, a founding member of the Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes most D.C. LGBTQ Pride events, and who served most recently as co-chair of World Pride 2025, which D.C. will be hosting next June, died unexpectedly on Friday, June 21, according to a statement released by Capital Pride Alliance. He was 68.

“It is with great sadness that the Capital Pride Alliance mourns the passing of Bernie Delia,” the statement says. “We will always reflect on his life and legacy as a champion, activist, survivor, mentor, friend, leader, and a true inspiration to the LGBTQ+ community.”

The statement says that in addition to serving six years as the Capital Pride Alliance board president, Delia served for several years as president of Dignity Washington, the local LGBTQ Catholic organization, where he helped create “an environment for spiritual enrichment during the height of the AIDS epidemic.”

“He also had a distinguished legal career, serving as one of the first openly gay appointees at the U.S. Department of Justice and later as an appellate attorney,” the statement reads.

Delia’s LinkedIn page shows that he worked at the U.S. Department of Justice for 26 years, serving as an assistant U.S. attorney from 2001 to 2019. Prior to that, he served from 1997 to 2001 as associate deputy attorney general and from 1994 to 1997 served as senior counsel to the director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, which provides executive and administrative support for 93 U.S. attorneys located throughout the country.

His LinkedIn page shows he served from January-June 1993 as deputy director of the Office of Presidential Personnel during the administration of President Bill Clinton, in which he was part of the White House staff. And it shows he began his career as legal editor of the Bureau of National Affairs, which published news reports on legal issues, from 1983-1993.

The Capital Pride Alliance statement describes Delia as “an avid runner who served as the coordinator of the D.C. Front Runners and Stonewall Kickball LGBTQ sports groups.”

“He understood the value, purpose, and the urgency of the LGBTQ+ community to work together and support one another,” the statement says. “He poured his soul into our journey toward World Pride, which was a goal of his from the start of his involvement with Capital Pride.”

The statement adds, “Bernie will continue to guide us forward to ensure we meet this important milestone as we gather with the world to be visible, heard, and authentic. We love you, Bernie!”

In a statement posted on social media, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said she and her administration were “heartbroken” over the news of Delia’s passing.

“Bernie leaves behind an incredible legacy in our city and country — through his life and advocacy, he helped pave a path for LGBTQIA+ residents in our city and within the federal government to live and work openly and proudly,” the mayor says in her statement.

“He helped transform Capital Pride into one of the largest and most inclusive Pride celebrations in the nation — a true reflection and representation of our people and values,” the statement says. “This is the D.C. that Bernie helped build and that he leaves behind.”

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District of Columbia

D.C. Council budget bill includes $8.5 million in LGBTQ provisions

Measure also changes Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs

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The D.C. Council approved Mayor Muriel Bowser’s budget proposal calling for $5.25 million in funding for World Pride 2025. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Council on June 12 gave final approval for a $21 billion fiscal year 2025 budget for the District of Columbia that includes more than $8.5 million in funding for LGBTQ-related programs, including $5.25 million in support of the June 2025 World Pride celebration that D.C. will be hosting.

Also included in the budget is $1.7 million in funds for the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, which includes an increase of $132,000 over the office’s funding for the current fiscal year, and a one-time funding of $1 million for the completion of the renovation of the D.C. Center for the LGBTQ Community’s new building in the city’s Shaw neighborhood.

The D.C. LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition earlier this year asked both the D.C. Council and Mayor Muriel Bowser to approve $1.5 million for the D.C. Center’s building renovation and an additional $300,000 in “recurring” funding for the LGBTQ Center in subsequent years “to support ongoing operational costs and programmatic initiatives.” In its final budget measure, the Council approved $1 million for the renovation work and did not approve the proposed $600,000 in annual operational funding for the center.

The mayor’s budget proposal, which called for the $5.25 million in funding for World Pride 2025, did not include funding for the D.C. LGBTQ Center or for several other funding requests by the LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition.

At the request of D.C. Council member Zachary Parker (D-Ward 5), the Council’s only gay member, the Council approved at least two other funding requests by the LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition in addition to the funding for the LGBTQ Center. One is $595,000 for 20 additional dedicated housing vouchers for LGBTQ residents who face housing insecurity or homelessness. The LGBTQ housing vouchers are administered by the Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

The other funding allocation pushed by Parker is $250,000 in funds to support a Black LGBTQ+ History Commission and Black LGBTQIA+ history program that Parker proposed that will also be administered by the LGBTQ Affairs office.

Also at Parker’s request, the Council included in its budget bill a proposal by Parker to change the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs to become a “stand-alone entity” outside the Executive Office of the Mayor. Parker told the Washington Blade this change would “allow for greater transparency and accountability that reflects its evolution over the years.”

He said the change would also give the person serving as the office’s director, who is currently LGBTQ rights advocate Japer Bowles, “greater flexibility to advocate for the interest of LGBTQ residents” and give the Council greater oversight of the office. Parker noted that other community constituent offices under the mayor’s office, including the Office of Latino Affairs and the Office of Veterans Affairs, are stand-alone offices.

The budget bill includes another LGBTQ funding provision introduced by D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) that allocates $100,000 in grants to support LGBTQ supportive businesses in Ward 6 that would be awarded and administered by the Office of LGBTQ Affairs. Allen spokesperson Eric Salmi said Allen had in mind two potential businesses on 8th Street, S.E. in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill as potential applicants for the grants.

One is the LGBTQ café and bar As You Are, which had to close temporarily earlier this year due to structural problems in the building it rents. The other potential applicant, Salmi said, is Little District Books, D.C.’s only LGBTQ bookstore that’s located on 8th Street across the street from the U.S. Marine Barracks.

“It’s kind of recognizing Barrack’s Row has a long history of creating spaces that are intended for and safe for the LGBTQ community and wanting to continue that history,” Salmi said  “So, that was his kind of intent behind the language in that funding.”

The mayor’s budget proposal also called for continuing an annual funding of $600,000 to provide workforce development services for transgender and gender non-conforming city residents experiencing homelessness and housing instability.

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Virginia

Suhas Subramanyam wins Democratic primary in Va. 10th Congressional District

Former Obama advisor vows to champion LGBTQ rights in Congress

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Virginia state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam (D-Fairfax County) (Photo courtesy of Subramanyam's campaign)

Virginia state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam (D-Loudoun County) on Tuesday won the Democratic primary in the race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) in Congress.

Subramanyam won the Democratic primary in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District with 30.4 percent of the votes. The Loudoun County Democrat who was an advisor to former President Barack Obama will face Republican Mike Clancy in November’s general election.

“I’m thrilled to be the Democratic nominee in Virginia’s 10th, and to have won this election during Pride Month,” Subramanyam told the Washington Blade on Wednesday in an emailed statement. “As I have done in the state legislature and as an Obama White House policy advisor, I will always stand as an ally with the LGBTQ+ community.”

Wexton, who is a vocal LGBTQ rights champion, last September announced she will not seek re-election after doctors diagnosed her with progressive supranuclear palsy, a neurological disorder she has described as “Parkinson’s on steroids.” Wexton is a vice chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus and a previous co-chair of its Transgender Equality Task Force.

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